You can’t make this shit up.
Just when you thought 2015 was just a freak unfortunate year for our music industry – specifically in regards to festivals – 2016 rolls along and shits on basically everything. Last year we saw the cancellation of RAMfest, the endless search for venues for Witchfest, the cancellation of Freedomfest and the wet dream joke that was Makhulu Fest, which by the way, I occasionally still see pop-up on Facebook from a clueless individual discovering it somewhere.
It turns out, all of that was just the start.
The shit show already began in December of last year when our beloved president had a brain implosion causing the rand to drop significantly to the other currencies. Which in turn prompted RAMfest to cancel their second event in as many years. The problem that I have with RAMfest is the excuses they gave for both cancelled events. Which were as follows…
Why would you cancel an entire festival two years in a row because you didn’t get your way. The bands weren’t available for the dates you wanted and now you can’t bring bands over because you can’t afford them. People go to festivals not only for the artists but for the experience and the party and the atmosphere, which is created by the staff, the music and the other attendees. We have amazing local acts. I went to Oppikoppi this year and it was refreshing, because for the first time in I don’t know how many years, the local line-up fully outshone the internationals. I basically just watched Yelawolf but I didn’t even bother with August Burns Red or the kind-of-international Kongos.
We have created this disease where some event organisers believe that the path to success is to book an international. But that isn’t important. We go for the event, the party, the getaway. An international is obviously a huge bonus, but we’re also content with only local acts. Those who aren’t, aren’t festival junkies and they can kindly go and change their bios. Cancelling the internationals and holding an all local event isn’t brand suicide. That’s just playing smart. Brand suicide is when you cancel everything because you didn’t get your way.
But that was just the tip of the iceberg. What followed can best be described as a cluster fuck. Festivals cancelled left right and centre. Woodstock was one of the many that cancelled but made a last ditch effort to salvage what remained to put up a last minute show. Respect to them for doing that.
You get events like Oppikoppi, Rocking The Daisies, Krank’d Up, Grietfest and Splashy Fen, who continuously deliver because they work hard, they have done the research, the planning, they nailed the logistics, they do the marketing, they get the sponsors and sort the finances, they communicate with the local and online community and in that way, they deliver a service to all the festival goers who want to watch some high quality live music. Every events organising page has the same spiel with the same buzzwords in their about section. All of them basically have the same ‘vision & mission’ statement, yet some of them cut it and others don’t.
Some of them are newcomers who ride the wave of ambition and entrepreneurship but get pulled underneath by the anchors of proper planning, logistics and finances and then ultimately drown. Do you know what made events like Oppikoppi, Rocking the Daisies, Splashy Fen and Krank’d Up so huge? They started small. They started modestly within their means and then naturally blossomed into the huge powerhouses they are today. A lot of guys these days want to start big and make an immediate impact and come in with a bang with 100 bands and this and that. This isn’t Wayne’s World 2. That whole book them and they will come thing doesn’t work on the fans. This is a dying world with a dying economy and the music industry and festivals are the victims.
People just do not have the money to go to three festivals in three months anymore. Hell, I can’t even attend three festivals in a year. But it seems like every week something new pops up. The festival and events scene has gotten so saturated to the point where you can barely tell them apart anymore. Basically the same line-up, same vibe, same price. You can skip this festival because you know you can catch that band you love at that next one next week.
No one is offering anything really unique anymore and indirectly the whole industry is chewing its own head. All of these festivals are also making the clubs suffer. Because no one can afford to go and watch a band at their local hangout because either they have spent all their money on tickets for the 67 upcoming festivals and are trying to save money; or they are going to see the same bands at one of these festivals instead of supporting local music venues.
Also, why would you attempt to hold an event at a venue or in a town that is notorious for having a stick up its arse? And why would you cancel an event a week before because of low ticket sales? Shit, I know I can’t be the only one who waits until right before the festival to get tickets online or at the door.
I honestly believe the week before is where the ticket sales really start rolling in because the FOMO starts to kick in amongst the fans. But even worse, how can you cancel an event one day before it starts? There surely must be some signs in the few weeks prior that there might be some problems. Yeah you might think you can sort it out and fix it but for godsakes, do not leave it till the last possible second to realise this won’t work.
Swallow your pride and communicate with the people. Tell them exactly what is going on. The worst thing you can do is be silent and leave people in the dark. It makes everyone nervous because A.) You look incompetent. B.) It just seems shady and C.) They will mostly think it’s your fault and that you’re a fraud. Be straight up with the people. Tell them exactly what is going on and what the circumstances are and what options are on the table. People will see that you are trying and that you are just human. Social media is there for you to communicate with, it’s an extremely useful tool for you to use.
I think the biggest problem is that it might seem like a lucrative business opportunity. It might seem easy. But it isn’t. It’s hard work. Especially here. We are a third world country. We can’t afford to have hundreds of festivals like the UK or USA. We have seen so many music venues and festivals fail and disappear in the last few years and it honestly scares the shit out of me. But if you are doing this for the love of music and entertaining people and are looking to organise a festival, use a Place In The Sun as an example. They have a venue that offers something unique, it’s a multi-day festival, which people love because of camping and the continuous partying. They have a team that work well together where each one has their own duties, they have a major sponsor in Jagermeister, they have about 50 artists spanning a wide range of genres, the organisers have a good reputation in the music industry and they have a great media/online/marketing presence. Dear god, I hope I didn’t just jinx it.
Image / Henry Engelbrecht